Time to rethink higher education

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

The festivities to welcome the new year in many ways mirror the frenzied activity which surrounds the release of the matric results.

In 2018, both these roller-coaster events happen within days of each other this week.

And, as many people yesterday nursed hangovers from over-indulgence and excessive partying, so too, at the end of this week, will tens of thousands of matric students crash to earth as reality sets in.

For a start, there are those who are going to be disappointed that they did not pass, or did not get that university exemption grading which is being touted these days almost as a goal in itself.

Fortunately, there are opportunities for those who fail to write supplementary exams and those who have borderline marks can have them re-marked.

But, even those who pass are not guaranteed a smooth ride into a rosy future. President Jacob Zuma’s pledge last year to provide free tertiary education to more qualifying students will raise the already huge numbers trying to get into university even further.

Money or not, there will simply not be enough places for all those who want to go to university. The educational authorities have also shown no inclination to set higher entrance benchmarks for universities, meaning that the current situation – where the majority of those who begin first-year courses at universities flunk out before getting their basic degrees – is set to continue.

That cohort of students will be left bitter and angry … but will not blame the government for giving them false hope in the first place.

Just as angry will be those who do graduate and who find there are precious few jobs out there.

The government needs to reverse its tertiary education strategy and focus on vocational training, rather than elitist university schooling.

This country needs artisans more than it needs unemployable university graduates. Time to rethink higher education.

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